Hello petals! I'm Georgie, Illustrator and Designer from The Paper Hare. Big thanks to lovely Rachel for letting me jump into her awesome blog space for a bit! It certainly is a real treat to be here :-)
So... as most of you know a couple of weeks back saw the 2015 return of The Handmade Fair held on the very gorgeous grounds of Hampton Court Palace in London. The Handmade Fair (to anyone not familiar with it) is a rather extraordinary three day annual event in September hosted by Kirsty Allsop and team and catering for those in search of arts, crafts and making inspiration of all shapes and sizes! With workshops and talks galore, shopping of the very best handmade kind of all sorts of gorgeous food and drinks on offer (plus plenty of sunshine this year too) it really is a pretty lovely weekend!
This year I proudly packed up my Paper Hare show and hopped on over to be part of the action as one of the 2015 exhibitors, and oh my I'm so very glad I did! I too was inspired by all the creativity in the air, I met some awesome fellow creatives and the best customers a girl could ask for! Needless to say I'll be heading back next year for more Handmade fun! ....However, it has to be said that taking part in a rather large event like this isn't a walk in the park by any stretch of the imagination. My own prep was months in the making and took a decent amount of focus alongside the daily orders and small business bits and bobs that you can't just put on hold. So for any of you super amazing creative businesses out there who are contemplating taking part I say go for it! But here are my ten top tips for getting the most out of the experience from my angle. I hope you find them helpful and if you indeed decide to take the plunge do pop by and say hello next year, I love to see a friendly face or two! :-)
1. You've booked a stand? Now tell the world... and their dog!
On the lead up to big events social media comes into it's own! Make it your mission to find the hashtags that are being used for your event and get using them as soon as poss! Seek out and connect with other exhibitors, customers and the event organisers. Getting retweets on the lead up to the event really helped to get my name out and about and several people even came looking for a particular print that HMF has retweeted a couple of times.
2. Get to work creating your space...
My very first port of call when I start to work on a new stand space with good ol Pinterest! This is the fun bit of collecting colours schemes, prop ideas, stand layouts, etc. My space at HMF was the smallest on offer at 1.5 x 1.5 metres so I really had try to maximise the height, width and depth as much as poss. It sounds crazy but in a small space like this it's also important to think about where you will put yourself too. In the end I took a chest of drawers from my bedroom (which I could stand behind or beside and work on custom orders at the show). To keep costs low I used the upturned drawers as ledges for my cushions, made shelving from cheap glued together battening and hooks out of branches from the garden! It's amazing what you can make from things lying around the house
3. How much stock?
This is a subject that's always quite stressful for me and I constantly ask myself on the lead up, have I got enough / too much! Eeek! HMF was veeery busy on all days and I did sell out of a few different things (I kicked myself a little because I could have made / taken more). I would say if you have a best seller then take extra if you can. In addition I offer a 'we can post your purchase' service at events now which is great because it means I can make the sale on the day but also hold onto the stock too so win win!
4. Setting up shop!
I'm finding the bigger the event the longer and more complicated the setup time. This definitely applied for HMF which took me a whopping 5 hours from start to finish to get everything exactly how I wanted it. My advice is use wisely ALL the time you are allocated and know before the day exactly in what order you'll do everything. I was working alone for the three days so it was really essential be super duper meticulous about my planning. Think ahead of time about where everything will be stored (just like a real shop), bags, cash tins, notebook, stationary,tape, tools, snacks, drink etc. Organisation is king and will pay dividends once the show has begun and customers start pouring in.
5. Take photos, & lots of them!
As the event begins and Kirsty cuts the tape to mark a fabulous new day there is an excited buzz in the air! But, with everything that's going on its easy to forget to capture how beautiful it all looks, the work you've put into your stand, the things that are inspiring you at the show and the of course capture a selfie or two with your new found friends. Allow yourself time to mooch about and get in early and have a scout around and get snapping away!
6. Know the show...
I found it was really helpful to know what was going on in the show and when. Know a bit about the workshops, discover new amazing exhibitors to follow and collect cards of my faves for when my own gift buying season happens. I also find this is a fab talking points with customers if they are searching for something in particular and maybe you can help them out when it's maybe something that you don't have! Someone asked me for a cat print (that I don't have) but I knew where to point her towards! Note to self... make cat print ;-)
7. Make sure they remember you!
Two words... business.cards! HMF has a tremendous footfall over the 27 hours it's open. In my case the few hundred business cards I did take were gone by the Sunday morning, and I certainly wasn't the only seller this happened to either! Luckily I had an extra supply of swing tags with my web address on which I could give out instead, but that wasn't really ideal. Defo take an extra stock along with you if you can!
8. Chat, listen and learn... make notes
One of my all time fave things about taking The Paper Hare out and about to events is the feedback and ideas I get from my lovely customers. Finding out what gets the big reactions and what maybe doesn't is very telling and great fodder for planning my next steps when I'm back in the studio. I try to listen, engage and make notes too as much as poss so I don't forget all those new ideas when you get back at my desk scratching my head!
9. Taking Payments.
Make sure you're armed with a trusty notebook to list your sales, tons of change in your cash tin and a great credit card machine that you trust! After reading one of Rachel's blog posts earlier this year I plumped for the Payleven chip and pin machine and app. Five events down and I have absolutely NO complaints and love the little thing, it most certainly paid for itself on day one! I can't take Paypal this way but anyone who wants to pay that way usually has the app and have been happy to wire the payment across to me.
10. Thankyous..... and rest!
It goes without saying that these big events don't come together without the help and understanding of special people around you, the support of those following on social media, and everyone who stops by to purchase, chat and laugh with you at the event! The day (or two if I can stretch to it) after an event as big as HMF for me is dedicated in my diary to say my BIG thankyous.... Unpacking (a bit if I can be bothered, lol) and rest! This year I finished up with a cold, practically no voice left and pretty sore feet.... but, happily I spent a couple of days basking in the memories of an awesome weekend doing what I love, really what could be better than that!?
See some of you lovelies next year hopefully!
Love Georgie x
The Paper Hare
Thanks a million to Georgie for that incredibly useful post! Having never done The Handmade Fair myself it was really interesting to me to hear how it went, and how much backstage prep was required!